Soft serve ice cream is a classic treat that many of us have enjoyed for years. It’s creamy, delicious, and perfect for a hot summer day. But have you ever wondered how a soft serve ice cream machine works? It is a complex piece of equipment that is specifically designed to churn out this creamy dessert. In this blog post, we'll take a deep dive into the inner workings of a soft serve ice cream machine, and explore how it turns liquid ice cream mix into the delicious treat we all know and love.
Before we get into the technical details, let’s talk about the ingredients that go into soft serve ice cream. The basic ingredients for soft serve ice cream are just like regular hard ice cream: milk, cream, sugar, and flavorings. The difference is in the butter fat ratios and temperatures. These ingredients are mixed together and then poured into the ice cream machine. Some soft serve machines also have the ability to add in other ingredients, like fruit or candy pieces, to create unique flavors.The mixture is placed in a refrigerated hopper, which keeps it at a temperature of around 40 degrees Fahrenheit. This helps to keep the mixture fresh and prevents it from spoiling.
The freezing process is where the magic happens. Soft serve ice cream machines use a special freezing process that creates a soft, creamy texture that we all know and love. The machine uses a combination of cold temperatures and air to freeze and mix the ice cream mixture.
The liquid ice cream mix is pulled into the machine by gravity, and is fed into the freezing chamber. The freezing cylinder is surrounded by a refrigerant, like Freon or ammonia. The refrigerant is at a temperature of around -20 degrees Fahrenheit, which freezes the mixture as it’s fed through the cylinder.The mix is exposed to a very cold surface, which causes it to freeze rapidly. But instead of freezing into a solid block, the mix is churned by the dasher, which breaks up the ice crystals and incorporates air into the mix.
As the mixture is frozen, air is added to the mixture to create the soft, creamy texture of soft serve ice cream.The amount of air that is incorporated into the mix is a critical factor in the quality of the final product. Soft serve ice cream is known for its light, fluffy texture, which is achieved by incorporating a lot of air into the mix. This is why soft serve machines are also referred to as "air pump" machines. The amount of air that is incorporated is controlled by the dasher speed and the size of the openings in the freezing chamber. The faster the dasher turns, and the larger the openings, the more air will be incorporated into the mix.
The machine periodically measures temperature and viscosity in order to keep the ice cream at the perfect texture. As it does, the machines motors will automatically cycle on and off as ice cream is dispensed.
The final step in the soft serve ice cream making process is dispensing. Once the ice cream is frozen and mixed, it’s ready to be dispensed. Soft serve machines have 1 to 3 dispenser heads that can be fitted with a variety of swirl designs to create unique patterns.
As ice cream is dispensed from the machine more liquid mix is automatically pulled into the freezing chamber and the process continues!
Cleaning and maintenance
Like any piece of equipment, soft serve ice cream machines require regular cleaning, sanitizing and maintenance to keep them running smoothly. The hopper and freezing cylinder should be cleaned after every use to prevent the buildup of bacteria and ensure that the ice cream mixture stays fresh.
The dispenser head should also be cleaned regularly to prevent clogs and ensure that the ice cream is dispensing properly. The machine should be cleaned according to the manufacturer’s instructions to prevent damage to the equipment.
Soft serve ice cream machines may seem like a simple piece of equipment, but there’s a lot of science and engineering that goes into making them work. From the ingredients to the freezing process, every step is carefully designed to create the delicious soft serve ice cream that we all know and love.
Whether you’re enjoying a classic vanilla cone, a fruity Dole Whip, or trying a unique flavor combination, soft serve ice cream machines are a fun and delicious way to enjoy this classic treat. So, the next time you’re indulging in a swirl of soft serve, take a moment to appreciate the engineering that goes into making it possible.
Here, at Phrozen Soft Serve, we use commercial grade Taylor 162 single phase machines that use 220 volt power. These machines pull a lot of power to make sure the 3 chillers keep up with demand on those hot summer days!